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Something about this video makes me realize the real reason I am blogging on Rocket Panda instead of something like SquareSpace or Tumblr. It isn't because I think WordPress is a better platform, that is debatable on many different levels. The reason is because it’s my platform. I own every pixel of this website and I can control what goes on here and what doesn't.

This isn't about WordPress though, it is about the open web. If you are unsure what the open web is, I will let Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, explain.

Mark Surman writing on Year of Open:

What is Open Web?

“Open web” is a sweeping term — it encompasses technical concepts like open-source code and open standards. It also encompasses democratic concepts like free expression and digital inclusion.

But there’s a single underlying principle connecting all these ideas: An open web is a web by and for all its users, not select gatekeepers or governments.

At Mozilla, we compare the open web to a global public resource, like clean water or the environment. The open web is something we all depend on: to communicate and create, to work and play, to buy and sell. And like any other natural resource, it’s fragile. It needs care, because it can be polluted: by harassment and abuse, by misinformation, by bad public policy.

Why is it important?

The web doesn’t exist in a vacuum, or apart from society. The two are deeply entwined. The web is where we engage with journalism, form opinions and share knowledge. It’s an arena for politics, education, culture and science.

An open web means positive progress for all these things. A more informed public; more civic participation; more opportunities to learn and connect with each other.

An unhealthy web has an opposite effect. When misinformation, harassment or surveillance proliferate online, we lose trust in our institutions and in each other. Fewer people engage. And when closed, proprietary technology proliferates, innovation and competition are stifled. The web is no longer a level playing field — it’s a platform controlled by a select few.

While the main issue is governments seeking control of the internet, another entity is at work to wall up our content and lives: social media. I read somewhere a long time ago that you can't be playing in someone else's yard and then get upset when they kick you off it.

If Facebook one day decides that they want to close up shop all of the photos, posts, videos, status updates, and events you have put there are susceptible of going away forever. While losing a large part of your digital life can be catastrophic the thing that I think is much more dangerous is the freedoms you are giving up as a cost of entry into Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

These social media giants aren't making these social networks just so you can stay in touch with friends and family, it is to get data and demographic information for marketing and advertisers. You are the product, and the more information these companies can get on you the better.

That said, Apple is planning to launch Sign In with Apple soon and that is a game changer in my opinion. You no longer have to use your personal information to log in to a service. You can now use great services online and in the App Store without having to worry about privacy concerns. This is the digital version of having your cake and eating it too.

I plan to remove every piece of my Facebook the moment I get married this summer. I no longer want to be a part of a company I deem to be evil, and I don’t want to keep feeding them my personal data for a myriad of reasons.

I guess what I am trying to say is when I want to share something on the internet I am going to do it on Rocket Panda, and I hope that you consider doing the same for your stuff.

I recently took a course by Shawn Blanc about Ulysses and learned a ton about the premium writing application, but one thing that I loved just as much were the extra emails Shawn sent out after I purchased the course.

My main takeaways from the emails he sent were these:

  • Don’t overthink things
  • Make the time to write
  • Give yourself permission to be crappy

All of these things are useful for someone like me who writes for fun and as a hobby on Rocket Panda. Honestly its just plain good advice for anyone doing something creative whether it is for a job or a hobby. I frequently look at these pieces of advice Shawn expressed and it makes me think about the one thing that I want to do more of as a blogger: consistency.

These four pieces of advice are perfectly in sync with my main issues in posting more frequently and making writing a daily habit for myself.

Don’t Overthink Things

One of the biggest reasons I’m not writing and posting consistently is because when I begin writing a post I make sure it is absolutely perfect and I overthink the point of why I am writing on Rocket Panda in the first place.

I created Rocket Panda because I wanted to share ideas, thoughts, and interesting things with like-minded people. People who love technology, automation, Apple, and other geeky things. I never got into this “blogging scene” to become rich and famous, I did it because I wanted a way to eexpress my love and interests with others.

There is a great video by Sean McCabe that is all about overthinking things and how creative people should stop doing it.

At first I thought this is something that’s easier said than done. After all, Sean has a successful business and podcast and I feel like I have hit a wall when it comes to growth in readers for Rocket Panda. After some time feeling sorry for myself, I realized that this goes in tandem with posting frequently and showing up every day to make those consistent posts happen. I know that the idea of “if you build it they will come” isn’t something that is always true, but it doesn't hurt to hit deadlines and make posting something you have in a calendar. If I say I will have a post live on a specific day I am more likely to post it rather than hitting publish after weeks of spending meticulous time making sure everything is absolutely perfect.

So instead of making things “perfect” I plan to make frequency and deadlines be my determining factor of when to publish. If the clock is racing and I don’t feel good about something I’m writing I am more likely to improve it and still hit my deadline in the process.

Make the Time to Write

When it comes to any craft you want to get better at, you have to make it something you do regularly. If you don’t then you’ll never improve in any significant way. This isn’t anything new for me but it is something I am reminding myself when it comes to writing. Which is why my goal every day is to write 500 crappy words at a minimum.

If I want to hit that goal of 500 words a day, I need to show up every day to write, and right now it just isn’t happening.

The thing that helped me with this valley of nothing was Merlin Mann’s talk at MacWorld in 2009 about the patterns for creativity. I have this video starting at 18:15 because this is where the nut of what got me started. The only thing you really need to know is that there is a book called Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and when she is asked to do a project she uses these boxes where she does this thing called “scratching” which is her putting literally anything and everything that brings her inspiration. I recommend watching the whole thing to fully understand things but that is the very brief version of what led to this 5 minute section of the talk.

There’s a lot to unpack in this talk, and maybe I will write more about it someday, but this got me thinking about why I haven’t been making the time to write. It was because I didn't want it enough.

This isn’t me saying you have to go all-in and work 18 hour days to make your dreams come true, but it is me saying that I spent more time trying to find inspiration from writers and bloggers who were at the level I wanted to be at. I was gawking at their work online wishing I was where they were instead of making the stuff I wanted to make. That isn't their fault though, it’s mine. I cared more about the idea of blogging and writing than actually putting in the work and making a commitment to myself to keep working on the things I want to be better at.

Give Yourself Permission to be Crappy

I am not as strong a writer as I would like to be, but if I allow that distance between where I am and where I want to be affect me then I would never write again. The only way that you can get better at a craft is to keep doing it over and over again and learn from your mistakes.

I think it’s been made painfully clear that I am a perfectionist and I never allowed myself to just be okay with mediocrity, let alone being crappy. Still, I think if I allow myself to write 500 crappy words a day I will get better faster than if I wrote 1000 good words every few weeks.

Being perfect is overrated in my opinion. I say that knowing full well that has been what I’ve been striving for the last year writing on my blog. Honestly it’s just exhausting reading over your work a dozen times and making small and unnecessary edits. That said, there is a difference between being perfect and having something presentable.

This isn’t me saying that I will be drafting something up without proofreading and multiple edits. I still plan to do the work of combing through for errors and mispellings. The part I won’t be doing is going through what I have written actively looking for something to change just to change it. I want to keep things simple.

Changes for Rocket Panda

All of this has come to a head for me and there are some changes effective today that will be taking place at Rocket Panda.

1. I Will Write at Least 30 Minutes Every Day

Now, 30 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but with that low bar of entry I have no excuse for myself to make the time to write every single day for 30 minutes. I have found if I spend that amount of time writing I am able to shake the cobwebs off and really start diving into more focused writing.

2. I Will Post at Least Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

I will make a total of 3 posts a week on Rocket Panda. I may post more, but I am committing to 3. They might just be links to things I find interesting or longer articles that I spend lots of time writing. Either way I have set the precedent that I am posting on specific days and that this is my new posting schedule.

If I’m being honest, this is a safe space after all, I wanted to commit to more than 3 posts a week. I wanted to go daily but I know that the one day I miss posting I will kick myself for it and lose all sense of control. I have been there before and I stopped writing for weeks because I was too busy beating myself up for not meeting the exceedingly high bar I set myself. I want to avoid that this time so I have lowered the bar for myself and will start out with 3 posts a week and see where things take me afterwards.

The first post of the week starts today with this one. The next scheduled post will be Wednesday.

One More Thing

One of the biggest things that I want to stress and put out there for both you and me is that it is okay to not think that what you are putting out there is perfect. Perfection is what stifles my creativity and my writing process every single time I let it take precedent. I can’t move on to the next post until I make it published, and I won’t publish unless it is perfect. Screw being perfect, if I look back on my work and think I could have said it better that only means that I am improving on my craft.

So with these new promises I hope to achieve the goal I have wanted for a while and post consistently and create without overthinking things. If I can do that this year I would consider it a success.

Nitin Khanna writing for nitinkhanna.com:

I’ve never been able to buy a Moleskine notebook. I’ve often come across them in shops and stores, but every time I flip through the well weighted, elegant pages, which can give you paper cuts all day, I realize that I’m not worthy of a Moleskine. My handwriting is terrible. My ability to sketch wouldn’t save my life! Besides, the most important thing I want out of any notebook is the ability to scribble random ideas, or write small notes into. I want to just dump chicken scratch and small paragraphs in, without having to worry about elongating, or writing perfectly. Do I furiously scratch out words as I’m writing? All the time.

Would I ever want to use a Moleskine for that? No.

I recently came across this post by Jeff Perry –

It got me thinking – do we sometimes treat out blogs as Moleskine notebooks? Do we worry that we must only present our best writing on them, instead of just putting our ideas out there, perfection be damned? Yes, we do. We write entire posts and then save them in drafts, only to forget them forever. Either we’re not proud of our writing, or we’re not sure if it’s the right time to publish them, or we’re unnecessarily being perfectionists. Whatever the reason, what happens when you open your blog the next time? You come to the homepage, or the admin dashboard, and what do you see? The drafts? No. That’s a hidden page somewhere, totally ignored. So we move on to the next idea, and then the next, until our creativity is stifled and our spirits dampened by the lack of publishing. Why do we do this? Because the home page of our blog, at least in our minds, is a public space, and on it, only our best work should be displayed. But this is not true. CMSes allow two states – logged in and logged out. When you’re logged in, your blog’s home page is, in fact, not a public space, but a private one. Most of us do not realize or understand this, let alone capitalize on this simple idea.

I learnt about this problem in 2017 and solved it for myself. I want to share the idea with you, dear reader, so you can also stop moleskinning your blog. I’ve alluded to me writing this post before, specifically mentioning a key aspect of my solution – that when you see my blog’s 2018 archive, you see 25 posts, while I see 59. Yes, that’s thirty four posts that are not sitting tucked away in a drafts folder, but active and alive on my blog, albeit only for me.

Nitin has a really interesting way he treats his blog, and I think I may start using it myself. It may not be the perfect solution but it does seem to allow me to “post” without it being totally public. Even if he hadn’t mentioned me on this I think it would have been something that would grab my attention.

I also have been doing a lot of thinking after relistening to John Gruber’s episode on Mac Power Users from 2015 on how he got started with Daring Fireball. He said, I am paraphrasing of course, that he first wrote feature articles meaning it was all his own writing without link posts or anything. Eventually he found he couldn’t keep up with his consistency and started link blogging. I think I am in the same boat now that he was in back in 2004. Which is why you will probably see more link posts like this from Rocket Panda. That doesn’t mean I won’t be posting original content, it just means I will have more posts regularly in between the original feature posts I write.

Lately I have been using my Mac more and more, and the reason for this is because I find it to have a much easier workflow for my writing than an iPad. This isn't to say that I can't do my work on an iPad, I can and I have, but because of apps like MarsEdit and Marked 2 I find that the iPad isn't my preferred device for writing anymore.

One of my reasons for this are the apps, and how they have improved my workflow when it comes to my writing.

MarsEdit

MarsEdit is probably the go-to application I will tell anyone who is using a WordPress website to use. It has a solid reputation behind it, and it is all apparent after using it for you site. It is built a lot like a standard Mail application with each post being its own item and the data you want to see right there in rows. It allows you to see all your posts easily and select one that might need to be edited or shared.

Once in the editing mode it supports Markdown, HTML, and plain text editing. It is also a really nice Rich Tech editor similar to the WYSIWYG editor WordPress used to have before moving over to Gutenberg. If you want Markdown syntax highlighting, this sadly isn’t the app for you. I spoke with the developer some time ago and I got the feeling that Markdown syntax highlighting isn’t something in the works. I could be wrong about this, and I hope I am, but as of right now there is nothing of the sort in MarsEdit.

Once you are done editing your post, things like the post title, slug, categories, and tags are all available to edit and assign prior to going live. The tags you even have saved on your WordPress website show up when entering them in MarsEdit. You can even use custom fields for things like the Daring Fireball-style Linked List Plugin where you can enter in a custom field with a link and make that URL the hyperlink to your title. You can see a good example of that on my post about the new podcast by Greg Morris called And You Are?.

Finally, this application supports image uploading, meaning that you can insert your image in a post on MarsEdit and when you do hit publish that image is then uploaded to WordPress and attached to the post automatically. This isn’t necessarily anything new as apps like Ulysses also do this. That said, it is a nice touch to not make users have to upload their images and then add them through some kind of library or manually copy the image URLs over.

MarsEdit isn't just a very nice editing tool for blog posts, it also provides a wonderful array of admin tools as well. For instance, if you want to get the link to a post on your website, you can just select the post and press control+command+C and the link for the post is copied.

Not only that, but with a simple plugin on your browser you can make link-posting on your website a cinch. Simply select the text from an article you want to share, click on the MarsEdit browser plugin and, with the power of the Quick Posts setting in MarsEdit, the link from the site where you selected that text is then formatted however you want for link-posting.

All in all, I think that MarsEdit is a great buy for the price, and if you give it time and really start using it regularly it can be the one and only application you need to post to your blog.

You can buy MarsEdit 4 today for your Mac for $49.95. Which seems high, but if you want a powerful one-stop shop for posting your blog, MarsEdit is by far and away worth the money.

Marked 2

Marked 2 was an app I didn't think I needed when it came to writing and blogging on the Mac, but once I finally used it I instantly added it to my workflow.

Marked 2 is a simple app on paper, it allows you to open a file with Markdown and see real-time updates to it. Outside of what this does “on paper,” the flourish and polish of this app makes proofreading and quality control smooth and simple.

Along with adding bold text and italics whenever the syntax shows up, it does things like shows the full URL of a link when you hover over it.

It can show the length of selected text with things like world count and character count and sentences in the selection. It allows you to review and check the version your readers will see, making it the last application necessary before hitting publish.

It also has an incredible editing system to show you where you can improve on your writing and grammar. It reminds me a lot of the Hemingway web-app, showing where you write in passive voice, or when you are using words that have preferred alternatives. So instead of saying something is “very large” it could show you something like “enormous” or “gigantic” making for it to be a much more pleasing thing to read.

Finally, Marked 2 also allows you to export the finished product as a slew of different file formats. You can save the finished post as things like a Markdown file, a PDF (paginated and continuous), or even HTML if you want to share it to something like MarsEdit and not have to worry about your WordPress website supporting Markdown formatting.

Marked 2 was the editor I needed when writing as I never feel that my work is worthwhile until I meticulously comb over everything and rewrite draft after draft. Now, with the editing tools and system I can use that as a finish line to when I can stop trying to make it perfect and start making it public.

You can get Marked 2 for $9.99 right now, or become a SetApp subscriber and get access to Marked 2, Ulysses, and a slew of other great apps.

Bringing it All Together

Now that you know both the apps I cherish on the Mac when it comes to my writing, let's explain the process in my writing and blogging on the Mac.

I first start writing my draft in a text editor. Which is usually Ulysses on the Mac, which can be an alternative to MarsEdit if you just want a text editor that can post to WordPress. One thing I prefer with Ulysses is that it does have Markdown syntax highlighting, allowing me to see more clearly the differences I make when I want to bold or italicize something. However, I am not a fan of how Ulysses handles your posts after you send it off to be posted. It just stays right at the folder you had it in. From there I have to figure out what to do with it. Eventually what I decided to do was make a folder called “Posted” and throw everything I am finished with in there for safe keeping. Once that got cumbersome I decided to make Ulysses my app for writing, and Marked 2 and MarsEdit for editing and publishing respectively.

Anyway, once I am done with my first draft I export the Markdown file of the post to Marked 2 and have both apps side-by-side and make changes to the according to the Keyword Highlight Drawer in Marked 2.

Once done there I send the post to MarsEdit. Once there I add the metadata I need and make sure everything in the post is how I want it. Once I am happy with it I then send it to Rocket Panda for posting.

Conclusion

The workflow is a little crazy seeing that I am using 3 apps to get one post out on to Rocket Panda, but I feel that if I were to exclude any of these in my blogging process it would make for a lesser product.

One thing that I think is something that I prefer over the Mac is just how easy it can be to edit posts and make changes with ease. When it comes to iOS and the WordPress app, which is the only decent app to handle WordPress content on iOS, it is still clunky and ill-fitting to the styling of iOS.

When I am using MarsEdit and Marked 2 on my Mac it feels like it is the perfect way to make sure that my writing is the best that it can be.

🔗 Curtis McHale writing for The Sweet Setup:

While some people have loved the latest editions of MacBook Pro keyboards, others have not. I fall on the side of not liking them at all, which left me with a choice to make with my aging 13” MacBook Air. Do I keep using it or look for alternatives?

After trying Linux and other machines, I turned to my 9.7” iPad Pro wondering if I could do all my work from an iPad. I already had my writing, audio editing, and video workflows nailed down with the iPad, but there was a gap for my web development work.

After some research, I was happy to find that it’s quite possible to do all my web development work on an iPad in almost the exact same way I worked on my MacBook Air. Not only did this give me a much less expensive computer with which I could replace my MacBook Air, it also gave me a much more portable and focused work environment.

Here is how I do web development on my iPad Pro.

Before I thought it wasn’t possible to do this kind of stuff on an iPad, but I’m glad I was wrong.

Honestly, this is impressive. Bravo Curtis.